Downtown Victoria is busy again as more people return to work but with Canadians still struggling due to COVID-19, Ottawa is extending Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit or CERB.
“If you’ve been getting the CERB and you still can’t work because you’re unable to find a job or it’s just not possible, you will keep getting that $2,000 a month,” prime minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday morning.
Another eight weeks will be tacked onto the benefit, which has helped more than 8.4 million workers and would run out for many next month.
“I’m glad, a lot of people are going to be able to sleep easy tonight,” a Victoria man told CHEK News.
“It’s been really helpful and they’re using it as they should, but there’s definitely people that take advantage of anything that’s given to them for free,” a sheet metal worker who needed the benefit added.
Some businesses say they’re having trouble attracting entry-level and part-time workers who’d rather collect CERB so Ottawa’s adding new conditions.
“We are going to have stronger language in the attestation that encourages, even expects workers to look for work, even take work when it’s reasonable for them to do so,” public services minister Carla Qualtrough told reporters.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce supports the extension.
“I think it’s a good thing,” new Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. “It puts money in people’s pockets and it gets that part of the economy moving.”
But Williams says not enough businesses have been able to take advantage of Canadas Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which was aimed at reducing layoffs in the first place.
As of last week, it had only paid out $10.4 billion of $73 billion initially set aside and the budget has now been reduced to $45 million.
“There’s businesses that don’t currently quality for the wage subsidy but if they did, it would get them back up and going, that part of the economy would restart and re-kick and get people working again,” says Williams
Ottawa now plans to extend the CEWS as well, through late August, to try and get more workers back on their employer’s payroll.